As she discovered, even on crutches it's not difficult to get around Spearfish's small downtown. Several local businesses—including Schuttler's Bell, Book & Candle Shoppe on Main Street—bear the logo of a fish impaled on a spear, and it became a game for my sons, Jamie and Chris, to search out examples of the design. Unfortunately, they tended to holler, "There's one!" in the middle of a crowded store. The locals, however, seemed neither particularly smitten with nor embarrassed by their town's name. One day I asked 18-year-old Peter Gradinaru, our Spearfish Canyon guide and a recent graduate of Spearfish High, "Do other schools make fun of your name?" He got a puzzled look on his face and said, "No, not that I know of." I was sorry I asked.
Peter acknowledged that typical high school things like beer parties and drag races often take place along the 20-mile-long canyon road. But there are a lot of young Spearfishians who grew up, like Peter, with an appreciation of the canyon's beauty and its successful balancing act on the ecological teeter-totter. There are plenty of hunters, fishermen, swimmers, hikers and tourists in Spearfish Canyon, but, somehow, not too many.
Fred Romkema, the mayor of Spearfish, calls the canyon "a well-kept secret," but on one morning visit we came upon the Ubben family from Lincoln, Neb., and the Peterson family from Saskatchewan, hopping along the rocks near Roughlock Falls. I asked them why they had come to Spearfish. They looked at me strangely as if to say, "Why wouldn't we come to Spearfish?" I seemed to be asking the wrong questions all week.
Wisely, I did not ask a single Corvette owner anything about his car. I'm sure he would have answered me. I've got to be honest here: When I stand in the pouring rain and watch 424 Corvettes parade down Main Street, as I did on the afternoon of July 14, about all I can think to say is, "Whew, lot of Corvettes, eh?" Chris, 9, had a much better time, but then he subscribes to Road & Track. One thing is certain: The Corvette people love Spearfish. "Hotels, cooperative merchants, a beautiful main street," says Dean Schultz, who with his wife. Deb, organizes the classic. "Heck, we live 400 miles away [in Sioux Falls] and hold our event in Spearfish. We must like something here."
Actually, no one had a better time at the parade than Jamie, who, like his father, doesn't know a Corvette from a coronet. That's because Modrick, having read in SI's FROM THE PUBLISHER (July 10) that Jamie would turn 12 years old in Spearfish, arranged as a surprise to have a birthday cake presented to him underneath the beer tent along Main Street on July 14, the big day. Mayor Romkema made the official presentation, no doubt wondering at the time why he had ever run for public office. Waking up in a strange town on his birthday had made Jamie's morning a tough one, but the cake turned the day right around, and the good feelings grew when he spotted HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAMIE flashing on the sign at the Pioneer Bank & Trust on Jackson Boulevard. We are still trying to convince him that it was the chamber of commerce, not his family, who planned the surprises.
Not everyone in Spearfish was overwhelmed by the McCallum family visit. After pulling me over for a speeding violation one morning, a Spearfish policeman responded in two ways after I somehow let it slip that I was in town to do a story:
"Oh," he said. He added, "Would you step into the patrol car, please?" I face a $50 fine. Four hundred 'vettes in town and I get hooked for speeding in a Chevy van with swiveling captain's chairs.
A less expensive way to pass the time in Spearfish is to stroll down Canyon Street after dinner. You'll pass the city park and then cross a small bridge that leads to the hatchery. Now, there is no way to make feeding fish sound exciting or to explain the appeal of the hatchery, but it's there. "I don't know, it was just nice," said Jamie. Says Trandahl: "All I know is that we're open every day of the year, dawn to dusk, and whenever there's decent weather, we see people."
Come out of the hatchery, turn right and you're at the city campgrounds, where there are 36 lighted horseshoe courts. Jamie, Chris and I all wanted to try the game, so we enlisted Gene Ficek, a local locksmith, and his wife, Yvonne, as our tutors. The Ficeks are the ones most responsible for bringing the world tournament to Spearfish.
"This'll probably be pathetic," I said as I lined up for my first throw. The horseshoe fell well beyond the stake and crashed against the fence.